Dental Care When Pregnant: What’s Allowed and What’s Not
Pregnant women have many things to think and worry about. The least they need at this time is another question that should be answered right away. Can they still visit a dentist? When you are pregnant, it is not the time to slack on your dental needs.
Pregnancy is a busy time for you. You have your trips to the doctor and other responsibilities, such as setting up the nursery. With all these jobs to fulfil, there is one thing you should not forget about: your oral health. Visiting your dentist should still be a part of your pregnancy to-do list. Therefore, it means that you have your regular dental checks while you are expecting.
Is It Safe?
Before you get worked up on your teeth, you may be worried about one thing. If you are wondering whether or not visiting the dentist is safe for you and your baby, you are not alone. Many pregnant women stop going to their dentists for fear that it will harm the baby. After all, there are medications and procedures to go through, and they might not be suitable for your pregnancy.
So, is it really safe? The good news is that there is nothing for you to be worried about. Going to the dentist is not a problem for most pregnant women. The biggest exception here is if they are advised to stay in bed due to medical reasons, such as hypertension.
To be on the safe side, always ask your doctor or OB-GYN. Most of the time, your doctor will tell you that you can visit your dentist and even have some treatments. Unlike with your OB-GYN, you do not have to go to the dentist as often as every week or even monthly. Usually, your visit will only be every six months at the most, except when you have specific treatments to go through.
Why Visit a Dentist during Pregnancy?
Dental work even when you are pregnant is not only safe but recommended by experts. When you are pregnant, you are in a different situation. You experience a rise in hormone levels, which, believe it or not, affects your oral health.
Due to the hormone changes that take place in the body, you can experience swelling of your gums. That is not all; you may also notice that your gums bleed more often, especially when you are brushing your teeth. You do not even have to brush hard to see red when you spit on the sink. Additionally, food gets trapped easily between teeth, which can further irritate your gums.
Dental work, therefore, is crucial when you are an expecting mother. At this time, you are incredibly vulnerable to oral infections. Visiting the dentist when pregnant has pretty much the same level of importance if you were not expecting. Some of the reasons why you should not neglect dentist visits are:
The dentist will help you detect cavities before they get worse.
Your dentist will examine your teeth, which will tell whether or not you have cavities while they are still a minor problem. It is crucial to go to the dentist at this point because you may be craving for sweets while pregnant.
Many pregnant women confess that they do not have the best dental hygiene. They may have their reasons, but you should not find an excuse to avoid trips to your dentist.
Gum Diseases Are Detected Early
As mentioned, gum disease is common in pregnant women. The dentist will not only examine your teeth but your whole oral health. Pregnant or not, many women (as well as men) do not even know they have gum disease. It helps when these diseases are detected early so they can be treated right away.
If You Have Fillings, You May Want to Have Them Checked
Your dentist will take a look at your fillings to ensure they remain secure. Improper hygiene is one of the biggest reasons why your fillings can become defective. They could also have decay, which the dentist can spot quickly.
If You Have Bad Breath, You May Want to Know Why
If you follow a strict regimen that includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing, you may already be confident in your smile. However, if you have bad breath even with good oral hygiene, it tells you that something is wrong. Your dentist can examine the problem and treat any existing oral conditions.
Most importantly, going to the dentist will help protect your overall health. According to research, gum disease is connected to diabetes and heart disease. Your risk increases to these two conditions when you are pregnant. Being hypertensive or with high blood pressure is common in pregnant women. You want to make sure you are in perfect health when you are ready to deliver your baby.
Visiting the dentist can also allow you to have your current oral hygiene examined. This way, you can build a better routine when taking care of your teeth and the entire mouth. Whatever advice you receive, it is highly recommended that you maintain and turn it into a habit.
A Little Caution
When you are pregnant, you should ensure that medical concerns are addressed immediately. These concerns include toothache. Many pregnant women think that they do not need to go to the dentist just because of this minor annoyance. However, a toothache can quickly turn into an infection. This infection can easily spread, and it will not affect just you but also your baby.
You should never wait for your next visit, which may be in several months. Oral concerns should be checked and treated as immediately as you notice them.
It is common for pregnant women to have swollen gums. This condition can go away but it can also exacerbate and turn into gingivitis. You will need to have your dentist look at it, so it can be fully treated; otherwise, it can worsen. The next stage is tooth loss due to periodontal disease.
What’s Allowed And What’s Not Allowed?
Before you enter your dentist’s office, you may already have a lot of questions in your head. Is it safe for you to be exposed to radiation, such as an X-ray? Are there medications you should avoid? Your dentist already knows what is good for you. However, it does not hurt to know what to expect, along with the things that you can and cannot go through.
Are X-rays Bad for Pregnant Women?
We have heard about stories regarding pregnancy and radiation, which is emitted from the X-ray machine. Today, X-ray technology has changed in a way that the machine emits low-dose radiation. Even with this technology, all dentists try to minimise radiation exposure, and will only take an x-ray when a woman is pregnant if it is absolutely needed.
During X-rays, your dentist will ask that you wear a lead apron, which is effective in minimising radiation exposure. At the same time, you will also wear protection for the neck called the thyroid guard.
One important thing to remember is that even though X-rays are safe for pregnant women, they are generally considered the safest in the second trimester. Nevertheless, if you have an emergency, such as you are experiencing extreme pain, the X-ray procedure will carry on. It applies even to those who are in their first trimester, as well as those who are planning to conceive.
Can You Have a Tooth Extraction While Pregnant?
The main objective of any dentist is for you to retain your tooth. Even when there is a problem, it will be diagnosed first, so the dentist will know how to treat it. As much as possible, tooth extraction will be avoided. However, there are occasions when pulling some teeth out is necessary.
When your tooth is already damaged and can no longer be saved, there may not be any choice but to remove it. Severe tooth decay is one of the emergencies that many pregnant women go through. They would often want the problem tooth to be removed because of the pain and discomfort.
Many people who complain about intense tooth pain will avoid brushing their teeth. Pregnancy requires you to maintain good oral hygiene. Not brushing regularly can lead to cavities that can get worse. Therefore, pulling a tooth out is needed during extreme cases. This way, your oral health will be preserved.
As much as possible, though, dentists avoid working on women who are in their first trimester. If you are still on this stage of pregnancy, your dentist may ask you to wait until you reach the second trimester. This way, the unborn baby will not have to deal with the radiation, despite it being at extremely low levels. Once again, the exception is when the pain is intolerable, or your case is an emergency.
If you are on your third trimester, it may be difficult for you to stay on your back for several minutes or hours. Unless you can take it, the dentist may tell you to wait until you have given birth. Therefore, the best time is on your second trimester when everything is still bearable.
What if the Procedure Requires Anaesthesia?
Relating to the scenario above, you cannot have a tooth pulled without local anaesthetic. You do not have to be worried as the dentist injects this. The local anaesthetic used is in the smallest possible concentration, rendering it safe even for pregnant women.
You may agree that pulling a tooth out is an incredibly tense and stressful moment. When the mother is stressed, so is the foetus. It is essential for the dentist to protect you and your child. Therefore, the wellbeing of the baby is also considered, which is why the lowest concentration of anaesthesia is utilised.
An important thing to note when visiting the dentist for a specific treatment is to disclose your pregnancy. If you do not have your baby bump yet, the dentist may not be able to tell whether or not you are pregnant. In this case, it all lies to you.
You should always tell your dentist about your pregnancy – and even if you are still in the trying stage. This way, the dentist can adjust the concentration of the anaesthesia. As you may have already guessed, not all anaesthetics are usable when you are pregnant.
Can You Have Your Teeth Whitened During a Prenatal Dental Visit?
Teeth whitening, in general, along with other treatments that are mainly for cosmetic purposes, will not harm your unborn child. These procedures are actually safe for all pregnant women. However, many dentists will advise you against having them done until you have given birth.
Dentists agree that tooth whitening is safe. Some dentists recommend that you should delay having your teeth whitened until after your pregnancy.
Is It Safe to Get Braces?
To be fitted for braces means you need to go through an X-ray. Many orthodontists, including Dr Hopkins, recommends that you postpone the procedure until you give birth. Orthodontic treatment does not usually require anaesthesia, so they are safe during pregnancy. However, a number of x-rays will be needed before treatment starts and during treatment, so it is really best to wait.
Can You Have a Root Canal Treatment While You Are Pregnant?
Root canal treatments are necessary for those whose tooth decay has spread to the nerve endings, causing severe pain. The treatment involves removing the infected pulp. A crown that protects the tooth will also be placed.
You can receive this endodontic procedure no matter what stage you are in your pregnancy. Therefore, if you are suffering from pain due to tooth decay, you should not delay your dental appointment.
What About Medications?
Medications used in dental work may or may not be safe when pregnant. There are conflicting studies about them, especially their adverse effects on the foetus.
The most common medication is a local anaesthetic, commonly known as Lidocaine. It is essential that you are comfortable throughout the whole treatment process and Lidocaine numbs the area, so you do not feel pain. This way, you and your baby will not be put under a lot of stress.
Depending on your oral health complaint, you may be prescribed antibiotics for preventing or curing infections. Some of the most common antibiotics prescribed are clindamycin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. You would need to discuss the safety of any antibiotic with your own dentist.
Questions You May Have About Pregnancy and Your Oral Health
Aside from the questions above, you may also want to learn more about other things involving your oral health. We have compiled some of the most common queries of pregnant women, along with the corresponding answers:
Should I Still Schedule an Appointment With My Dentist if I Am Trying to Get Pregnant?
The answer is a resounding yes. If you are still not pregnant, but trying to be, you mustn’t stop visiting the dentist. This way, if there are any problems, they can be detected early. Regular dental check-ups can significantly reduce your risk of dental emergencies before you conceive.
Will I Lose a Tooth With Every Pregnancy?
It is a myth that mothers will lose a tooth each time they get pregnant. This folklore may have stemmed from the fact that many women tend to suffer from gingivitis during pregnancy. Gingivitis is a type of gum disease where the gums become sore and tender.
Gingivitis can be prevented when you take care of your oral health. Keep your teeth clean at all times, which is why your dentist may tell you to have more frequent cleanings. If you see that there are changes in your gums or your mouth as a whole, make sure that you see your dentist right away.
Should I Stay Away From Sugary Treats to Prevent Cavities?
In short: Yes. For tooth decay to occur, sugar needs to be present. The bacteria will feed on the sugar that you get from what you eat and drink. They will produce acids that eventually damage the teeth. Each time your teeth encounter sugar, the acids in your mouth can attack them for almost half an hour.
How Can I Take Care of My Oral Health When Pregnant?
A healthy mouth will help you achieve a healthy pregnancy. Aside from frequently visiting your dentist, which is every six months, you should take extra steps to take care of your teeth at home. To maintain good oral hygiene, you must brush your teeth daily, at least twice a day. You should also floss at least once daily.
You may have some cravings that involve sugary foods and drinks. As much as possible, you should limit your intake of anything that has sugar in it. If you vomit, you should not brush your teeth immediately. It will not help keep your teeth clean; rather, it exposes your teeth to damaging stomach acids. You only have to rinse your mouth with water to neutralise the acid.